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Turkey: Getting There

Fishing Boats in the MarinaI have been back from Turkey since Tuesday night or so (didn’t get back to Guyana until Wednesday Thursday morning). When I set off on this trek, I knew I’d be blogging about it, despite it being a work trip. After all, I’d never been that far from the Caribbean and the idea of Turkey seemed so exotic and ancient in a way that my home countries are not. By the time I’d finished the first leg of my 4-flight trip to Antalya, Turkey, I was sure I had my first post locked in. I didn’t count on the WordPress.com ban in Turkey, preventing me from expressing my frustration fresh off the press. Now that I am finally recovered from the jetlag and ensconced at home, comfortably doing my laundry (part of the recovery process) I can reminisce and blog. And I find, that, despite the almost 2 weeks that have passed, I am still mad at LIAT.

Travel trials. It was all I could think about – the 7 hour delay by LIAT before even leaving Guyana, almost making me miss my flight to London and setting me back by an entire day. I hate LIAT by the way. Not that I didn’t before, but this time… During the 7 hour wait in the airport, they kept promising that they’d have everything sorted with British Airways to ensure I didn’t miss the flight and I had no choice but to believe them, since by the time they told us that our wait would be significantly more than an hour, the only alternative to leave the country was already taking off. Good timing by LIAT I am sure. Of course, I didn’t entirely trust them, since when they first made the announcement of the long delay, they were dealing only with a group booking of 8 people who were scheduled to connect to Virgin Atlantic in Barbados. I had to keep pushing in and reminding them I was catching the earlier BA flight. Sigh.

Of course, we landed in Grantley Adams, and the LIAT personnel helpfully asked passengers to allow those connecting to Virgin and BMI to disembark. What?? Quick check with the groundstaff confirmed it. They had no instructions to expect and deal with me, or liaise with BA. After repeated questions, the guy checked his list and surprisingly I was on it as a passenger with a connection, but the group of 8 were highlighted so they were the ones to be given special delay treatment. The LIAT guy even told me at first, don’t worry, BA leaves later these days since it goes to Trinidad on a Saturday and turns around. This, despite the fact that the BA plane was on the ground and it was barely more than an hour before it was scheduled to leave Barbados. Did he think I was blind or stupid? It was only my insistence that got the LIAT agent to finally say, “well, if you don’t get on BA, we’ll have to get you onto Virgin.”

Well, I was left to do what I have done so many times in BGI – run with my luggage all the way over to the BA counter and breathlessly check in. Which they did, thankfully. Of course, it was less than an hour before departure, which usually means the flight is closed, so I asked if LIAT had pre-booked me. No. They had not. BA was still checking-in because other passengers were late and they had been notified. So instead of waiting 7 calm hours in BGI, I rushed straight from check-in to the plane, ever grateful for timing that had nothing to do with the region’s only island-hopper.

The BA flight was fine, other than the fact they keep the cabin entirely too warm, just because it’s winter. I can’t sleep in fake heat. On arrival into London Gatwick, I had to take the bus to Heathrow and then fly more than 3 hours to Istanbul. The BA flight was interesting and would have offered great views over the Alps etc if I wasn’t dozing. And because it was headed to Turkey, we got served some yoghurt with honey that was great – not the sugary concotions that I am used to as yoghurt, but something a bit more sour, but also richer. And honey, mmmm. Good sign for the food ahead.

In Istanbul that’s where it hit me just how different a country I was in. Flying overhead, the clusters of buildings, whether in squares or circles, or in more odd shapes, all seemed to have a strange kind of organisation. It’s hard to explain, the city is clearly not all straight lines and grids, but it seemed organised, particularly in those clusters within the city. Strange and pretty. The mosques were also very noticeable, with their spiky tall minarets and large domes. Lots of them. Yay – travel to a place where I didn’t have to be a pseudo-pesco-ovo-lacto-vegetarian (term coined by Lilandra). Also, I have mostly traveled to countries that speak English, or French, Spanish occasionally Dutch. And even in those places, there is always an abundance of English. In Istanbul, the airport signs were also in English, but the Turkish seemed so strange. I couldn’t even think of deciphering some of it, as I could with French and Spanish, even German and Dutch (to a lesser extent). And people weren’t as familiar with English, although that would be even more so in Antalya as I was to find out. But first, getting into Turkey.

T&T nationals don’t need visas for Turkey. Not even on arrival. I have no idea how or why this is so, but it is. Ulker Biskrem(Some connection perhaps to the fact that we get Ülker products in T&T, including my ever favourite Ülker biskrem chocolate-hazelnut cream filled biscuits?) The immigration officers aren’t too clear on it either. As I watched Americans and others being sent back to get the visa on arrival, I wondered whether my information had been accurate. Even though, just coincidentally I had found out the day before that a Trini friend from high school had just come back from Turkey and he had confirmed the no-visa issue. But still, in a strange country where you know no-one, you worry. Well, I do. When it was my turn, the immigration officer studied my passport’s front cover. And then looked for Trinidad and Tobago on a long list on his wall. No luck. He looked again. Nada. He then opened up the passport and studied the photo and information, flipped through my Schengens, my US visa, UK student visa, various stamps…then back at the wall. This time at a much shorter list. Quick glance at me. Flip through again. Shrug of his shoulders, stamp on the passport, wave me through. All without a word. Not a single question or comment. I didn’t even know for how long I was permitted entry. Nevermind. I was in. (And Barbadian nationals can also get in without a visa, but not sure who else in the region, as even the US nationals need visas on arrival).

I made it safely through Attaturk Airport in Istanbul, and arrived in Antalya on the bumpiest, cloudiest, lightning filled short flight I have ever had (later found out there’d been a big storm in the Mediterranean). The taxi driver eventually found my hotel, where I had been expected, with barely 10 hours to sleep, and start my work day in the morning. And the adventure in what is also called Anatolia. My tales of Turkey aren’t necessarily incredibly exciting, but I’ll be blogging about them nonetheless, so be prepared. Or instead, go look at the pretty pictures! As a sampler, some of the things that stand out about my trip – the blue blue Mediterranean of the Turquoise Riviera, the mountains above Antalya, and the food.

Fishing in the Mediterranean Konyaalte Plaj Turkish Shepherd's Stew

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10 Comments so far (Add 1 more)

  1. hmm
    you changed the pingback…

    1. Lilandra, Empress of Chocolate and Envious Sister on November 25th, 2007 at 1:57 am
  2. oh
    you know how i got to like yoghurt, strangely enough…dahee!
    and that’s why i like plain yoghurt…here it still is probably too sweet but…

    2. Lilandra, Empress of Chocolate and Envious Sister on November 25th, 2007 at 2:01 am
  3. Did you not arrive in Guyana on Thursday morning?????????

    3. TriniMom on November 25th, 2007 at 7:19 am
  4. yes, I only realised when I went to sleep that I counted wrong.
    jetlag, it’s all the jetlag

    4. chennette on November 25th, 2007 at 9:59 am
  5. Turkey is much more than a distant country; it is different. Great photos of Turkey and probably many framable ones :)

    I have a roll of Biskrem somewhere in the house and also a bag of Turkish delights form KC. I missed a connecting flight only once but chased more than a dozen. It is what all good travelers learn along with how to personalize ribbons on suitcases and fill out baggage claim forms :)

    5. aka_lol on November 25th, 2007 at 3:40 pm
  6. Hey aka_lol, thanks. I need to get some nails up on my walls to hang such frames.

    6. chennette on November 26th, 2007 at 11:50 am
  7. I just finished reading your post and am exhausted by the delays, running to the counter, plane etc. I hate LIAT too. Actually, who doesn’t?

    7. Cynthia on November 27th, 2007 at 9:00 am
  8. Nails are easy, it’s the hammering that is hard :)

    8. aka_lol on November 28th, 2007 at 2:01 pm
  9. You are lucky my friend to visit the country of turkey i love so much..it use to be that barbadian didn’t need visa up until 2 yrs ago..now it’s stress.when I went to london in july 2007 to obtain my visitor visa with all my documents in hand..lthe ady at turkish consulate look at my passport & papers & said I will need 7 weeks before I can obtain a visa..well you know that made be very unhappy as I only had 6 weeeks holiday & I was looking forward to spending it in turkey with my b/f but to spent 6 weeks in the uk was pure torment for me..well I am hoping my turkish b/f can make it to barbados with so much hassel from uk consulate..

    12. lyn on December 30th, 2007 at 7:16 pm
  10. Hi Lyn. Didn’t realise things had changed for Bajans. That is too bad. Hopefully things work the other way around then!

    13. chennette on December 30th, 2007 at 7:28 pm

3 Trackbacks

  1. […] Turkey: Getting There […]

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  3. By Turkey: Finally, the Food « Lifespan of a Chennette on December 16, 2007 at 10:21 pm

    […] a month since I went to Turkey and I haven’t posted yet. Sure, I’ve made promises, here, here and here. But still, no post. Instead, you got Pearls Before Swine comics. And my Celebrity […]

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